Illustration for article titled Staying Sane - social distancing and work from home advice from a newb

Hey so now that the country is essentially shutting down and a lot of us are staying home as much as possible, I have some tips!I started working from home in January as part of a new job and spent the preceding four months unemployed and at home. From this, I have some advice.

A lot of this stuff is basically “these are the bad habits I’ve fallen into, so don’t do the same.”

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Eat and Shower Normally

It is super tempting to just roll out of bed and onto your work computer. I do it, for sure. But I do try and take a shower as soon as possible during the day. Getting out of my sleep clothes and having clean… everything really makes you feel like you’re working rather than just on an extremely long weekend. Given the current TP crisis, maybe take a shower after your first… morning meeting.

Also putting on clean clothes, even if they are just another pair of lazy paints, helps a lot.

Separate Work and Home Computers, if possible

This one is harder, but there is a lot of stuff I won’t do on a work computer therefore it is nice to have it away from my home computer. This helps me not be tempted to put on a movie, download games, or watch… videos.

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I’m also not logged into the majority of time-wasting websites on my work computer, so the added step of walking across the room to check the hysterical bullshit on Facebook and Twitter is nice.

Work near a window

For the first could of weeks of WFH, I was set up in the bay window near the front of my house and I really enjoyed it. I got to see the comings and goings of my neighbors, the mailman, ect, and it felt less isolating. Also the light was nice. Now I’m set up near a window on the back of the house and I like it less, but… that is where I need to be setup so… here we are.

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Now that I’ve said that I might go back….

Also, if you are near said window... maybe crack it?  Even if the weather is shitty out, fresh air is nice.

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Have a system with your co-habitats

My partner and I both work from home now, unrelated to the plague. I’m used to working in a big office with constant interruptions and social interaction. He is used to a smaller office and the absolute right to work uninterrupted.

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You can see where some friction may happen.

The system we’re working on is a stoplight/stacklight system. Green for “ok to talk”, yellow for “ok to interrupt but I am trying to concentrate” and red for “on a call or super in the zone.” We’re planning on using actual stacklights, but ribbon, handkerchiefs, or even a whiteboard would work too.

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We are hardly the first people to think of this, but so far it is working ok.

In either case, managing expectations for anyone who lives with you is important. If you don’t, you’re going to get mad about unacceptable interruptions and the interrupter is going to get mad that you’re mad.

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Make a system. Stick to the system. Improve the system as needed. Cohabitation is hard enough with it being 24/7 with no chance of escape.

You can still be social from a distance

Video conference happy hours are a thing and they work surprisingly well. Friends + webcam + video conferencing software + booze = fun! And no, the drinking isn’t required. Plus this is a good chance to tell your friends how garbage their call setup/ etiquette is. Chances are you have at least one friend who is shit with the mute button or has a really crappy microphone. Their co-workers will thank you for cluing them in on this.

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We’ve also been playing a lot of games with friends. Plenty of multiplayer games support playing with friends only and it seems to work well. We also usually leave video conferencing running, muted, and use a push to talk enabled voice chatting software like Mumble to facilitate voice chat without all the noise.

I’m a fan of utilizing an out-of-band voice solution so if the game crashes you still have contact with the disconnected person.

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Other things to try would be Cards Against Humanity (IIRC they have an online mode) and Jackbox over video chat (should be doable?)

Not into games? Well… how about a virtual Bob Ross night? Sit down, paint some shit with friends over video chat. Probably a pain to organize but… here we are. Virtual book club?

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You can still get out of the house

Hiking, yard work, driving, wrenching... all of these things can be done with minimal exposure. So it isn’t all bad!

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These are just some tips

Mostly from mistakes/successes I’ve had.

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